Bill Clark will not coach a game for UAB this fall, but that hasn’t stopped him from being the first coach to earn an extension for the promise of what’s to come.
UAB announced a five-year extension for its sidelined head coach Tuesday, which it says reaffirms its pledge to bring back football in 2017.
“The university looks forward to the next phase of UAB Football. We will continue raising philanthropic support needed for facilities and will move forward with our plan to play a complete FBS schedule as a full member of Conference USA in 2017,” AD Mark Ingram said in a statement. “I am as happy as our fans, alumni, donors and community that Bill Clark will continue to be our coach. This is another day of celebration for UAB, with many more to come.”
Clark led UAB to a 6-6 mark a year ago in his first season at the school, before the program was cancelled in December and then resurrected in June. The program will sit out the 2015 and 2016 seasons before rejoining Conference USA in 2017.
“My family and I want to thank UAB, Mark Ingram, Dr. Ray Watts and the Board of Trustees for their commitment to me as UAB’s head football coach. We are doing this and doing it right – today’s announcement sends that message loud and clear,” added Clark. “To all UAB supporters and family, thank you. I appreciate each and every one of you, what you’ve done, and continue to do, to support our program and I am proud to be your coach” Clark continued. “We need you now more than ever to help write the next chapter of UAB football. For my part, I am matching my previous gift and paying it immediately.”
For at least the third time since it was announced the football program had risen from the ashes, another former UAB player is making his way back home.
On Twitter Friday night, Lee Dufour announced that he will be returning to UAB to continue his collegiate playing career. After it was announced back in December that the school had decided to disband the sport, Dufour was one of myriad Blazer football players who decided to take his talents to a university that, you know, had a president who actually valued football as part of the college experience, transferring to South Alabama of the Sun Belt Conference.
In a subsequent interview with al.com, the offensive lineman explained that he and kicker Nick Vogel, who is one of the trio of former Blazers who have returned to the program, had made a pact based on the possibility of the sport being restarted.
“We made an agreement that if there was any way possible we could come back, that’s what we wanted to do,” Dufour said. “We were roommates during the season and we fell in love with the place.
“I liked being back in Mobile and at South Alabama, but I decided I wanted to be away from home and do my own thing. Once I found out UAB was bringing the program back, I pursued it.”
Dufour played in three games for the Blazers last season, starting the last two at center. As UAB is set to return to the field for the 2017 season, Dufour will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning then.
As UAB works hard to bring back to life the football program it hastily killed off last November, the university is requesting those who committed to donate funds to get those checks in the mail as soon as possible. A letter to UAB alumni and more requested for payments to be made between September 1 and 7 so that the university can put together a budget for the coming year.
The letter in full — signed by embattled UAB president Ray Watts, Athletics Director Mark Ingram and UAB Athletics Campaign Committee chair Hatton Smith — was shared by Kevin Scarbinsky of Al.com and can be read here. One portion of the letter details the need for receiving donations ahead of a normal schedule.
We now must get pledge payments in hand. We are already working with many of our donors and supporters so we can cover the expenses associated with the restoration of the three sports on schedule. As indicated at the news conference in June, the necessary funding for these programs is critical to support multi-year commitments to our student athletes and coaches. We’d like to get ahead of the curve and stay there. Specifically, we request that donors make initial payments on their pledges by September 1, 2015. In addition, we will be seeking advance pledge payments on January 15, 2016, and July 1, 2016, for those who are able to help us stay ahead of the curve.
As you might imagine, the reaction from some in the UAB community to this has been a bit mixed. On one side you will have the understanding and devoted fans that will bend over backward to help the university provide a stable budget for the rebirth of UAB football (and rifle and bowling). On the other you have those already speculating this could give UAB an excuse if the financial situation is not improved to bring football back.
UAB is planning to return to the football field in 2017.